GeoQuest Crosses The Ditch

by Kim Beckinsale & Jan Leverton – Team MD Wild Women

GeoQuest Crosses The Ditch

With the announcement that the iconic adventure race Mountain Designs GeoQuest was going to cross the ditch, there was no way that the Mountain Designs Wild Women AR team were going to miss out. So off to New Zealand and on to another epic chapter in the race's rich history. Read on for the full race debrief.



GeoQuest Crosses The Ditch

Part of the reason that adventure racing is such a cool sport is because it always takes you to places that most tourists and the general population can't access or simply do not even know about. So now this was an opportunity to not only explore the Hawkes Bay region in the North Island of New Zealand but also provide a little boost to the community which was devastated by floods earlier in the year.

Mountain Designs Wild Women team captain Kim Beckinsale had planned to race with Debbie Chambers and Emma McCosh in XPD - Rivers of Gold - Cairns in 2021, but COVID restrictions prevented the Kiwis from international travel, so this event became the perfect opportunity for us to finally race together. Debbie is no stranger to GeoQuest, as she raced with the 'Girls On Top' (all women's team) back in the early days of GeoQuest in Australia. Debbie has had a lot to do with growing women's participation in the sport of adventure racing in Australia, so by racing together, in GeoQuest NZ, we form a bit of an international alliance for the continued growth of women in adventure racing. Debbie called on her experienced AR friend Rachael Cashin to join us for the adventure as well.


The Format

Mountain Designs GeoQuest was first held in Australia way back in 2002 and back in those days it was a fully supported race, meaning that teams of four raced and their support crew would transport their gear and provide food and support in the transition areas. This was the format adopted for this event and thus brought even more exposure for the sport to the local area, which was much needed. Experience and local knowledge are always going to be advantageous in adventure racing and in a fully supported race, this means that the crew are an integral part of the team. So, the Mountain Designs Wild Women were supported by Jan Leverton (who has raced and finished more than 17 GeoQuest events in Australia) and Brendan Pheasant, a former Napier local who had returned to the area mainly to help with flood recovery.

The Mountain Designs Wild Women team

The Mountain Designs Wild Women team. (Image courtesy of Murilo Mattos & Wild Women)

The Race

The GeoQuest NZ Hawkes Bay - Napier course was 196km and included 14 different legs or stages - 4x treks, 3x paddles and 6x mountain bike legs, meaning that slick transitions would be advantageous. There were 6 maps (2 x topographical, 3 x orienteering, 1 x Google Earth) with scales ranging from 1:50000 to 1:4000 adding to the navigational challenge which is such a big part of the sport. The course was not the originally planned course, in fact totally different. It was a revamp due to the February floods that caused massive landslides and destruction to infrastructure. So, the fact that Wild & Co were even able to plan a course in the area was a huge feat in itself.

Birds-eye view of leg 2 ocean paddle in Hawkes Bay.

Epic birds-eye view of leg 2 ocean paddle in Hawkes Bay. (Image courtesy of Murilo Mattos & Wild Women)

The Highlights

  • Hawkes Bay Ocean Paddle: The conditions were perfect, being chilly but a light tailwind and little swell just to make the finish interesting. There was a little shore dump and a few surfers out catching waves!
  • Cape Kidnappers Trek: This was a stunning beach trek alongside remarkable sandstone cliffs with CPs located in dry creek lines. We saw seals, pacific gulls, gannets and plenty of other sea life as we ran underneath the million-year-old cliffs. Then we headed up to the top of the cliffs to the lighthouse at Cape Kidnappers before walking through spectacular lush farmlands and a private golf course. Then we got to ride down the hill out of there which was so fun!
  • Te Mata MTB & Trek: The mountain bike trails were challenging but fun and the CPs were not too difficult to find. They were part of a permanent Orienteering Course, so we were looking for 7.5cm x 7.5cm orange and white squares on posts/trees. On the trek in the same area, we were able to take in the scenery and see some of the ancient fossils embedded in the cliffs and on the trails.
  • Tuki Tuki White Water Paddle on sunset: White water paddling is always a bit of fun especially when the water is a bit shallow, the rapids are not too big, and you are with experienced paddlers. We were treated to beautiful views of the Craggy Range Peaks as the sun was setting and finished just on dark.
  • Racing with a team of confident, competent, super tough women who were swift on every discipline of including the transitions.
Leg 3 was a stunning beach trek alongside the remarkable sandstone cliffs of Cape Kidnappers.

Leg 3 was a stunning beach trek alongside the remarkable sandstone cliffs of Cape Kidnappers. (Image courtesy of Murilo Mattos & Wild Women)

The Challenges

  • Starting the race when the temperature was close to zero degrees, knowing that there was little time for it to warm up before the start of the paddle.
  • Deciding what gear to wear for the start and then the paddle as transitions would need to be super slick.
  • Landing the kayaks off the ocean paddle - the boat ramp was non-existent and there was a big shore dump.
  • Riding past some of the famous Hawkes Bay wineries and not stopping in for some wine tasting!
  • Looking for CPs that had no orienteering flags as they were all certainly well hidden.
  • Re-routing after we took a wrong turn and could not find CP 14 because we were on the wrong road.
  • Being caught by the chasing team at CP 15 but deciding to keep going as we had taken a photo.
  • Crossing a river in the dark with our bikes not really knowing exactly how deep it was going to get.
  • Doing a U-turn on the second last bike because we couldn't find the CP on the bridge, despite being in the right place. Thus we were passed by the chasers!
  • Dragging our kayaks through the mud on the final marina paddle. The race for the win was on and the tide was so low there was no water to paddle on.
Mountain biking stage for leg 4.

A punishing mountain biking stage for leg 4. (Image courtesy of Murilo Mattos & Wild Women)

The Finish

The Mountain Designs Wild Women finished the race 2nd outright, 1st All-Women team. Yes, we were pipped at the post by the Kauri Coasters (Mixed Team), after being caught on the second last bike leg, and not able to get back in front on the Marina Rogaine mud drag paddle. The Coasters had that slight advantage off the water, and that with a little bit more local knowledge, were just a bit too fast to keep up with, but we certainly did not stop trying.

The Mountain Designs Wild Women team at the finish line.

The elation of the finish line. (Image courtesy of Murilo Mattos & Wild Women)


The Outcomes

  • Wild &Co successfully launched Mountain Designs GeoQuest in NZ and brought more visitors to the Hawkes Bay region at the same time - a welcome boost to a struggling community after devastating floods in February.
  • Growth of the sport in NZ with the addition of a 48-hour race in the North Island and maybe a possibility that some Kiwis may consider travelling to Australia for GeoQuest Australia in June 2024.
  • Mountain Designs Wild Women have another very successful race in New Zealand, hopefully inspiring more women to get out and have a go at the sport.
  • Kim finally gets to race with Debbie Chambers, and in the process races alongside Emma McCosh and Rachel Cashin, some of New Zealand's most experienced and toughest adventure racers.
  • Great memories of the event as we look back over some of the amazing photos taken by Murilo Mattos posted on the Wild&Co Facebook Page These will also help to showcase the beautiful Hawkes Bay Region to the world as the event was a part of the ARWS Oceania Series.
  • An opportunity to explore more of this Hawkes Bay Region by staying and playing. There is plenty to do in the area such as explore the Hawkes Bay Trails , Hawkes Bay Wineries or some of the Napier Art Deco.


The Gear

The Mountain Designs Wild Women would like to acknowledge the support we have from Mountain Designs. Having access to a wide range of race gear and equipment makes a huge difference in the sport of adventure racing - gear needs to be reliable and robust! MD Gear used carried during the race included:



Photo Credits

All images supplied by Wild Women & Murilo Mattos




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